Over the past several seasons the deadline has been met with much optimism from many fans. If your team has been sliding, the incoming deadline is a way to potentially fix those wrongs. If you are rebuilding, you sell at the deadline and as a fan can better understand your team's direction and start getting excited to scout incoming potential picks during March madness. Finally, if your team is sniffing contention you are extremely optimistic because you know your team is close, and just that one move can catapult your team to win a title.
As a fan of the Boston Celtics I spent the last 4 deadlines seeing my franchise creep up the ladder from rebuilding and asset accumulation to this past deadline potentially looking as buyers from a contender point of view. This POV was felt with 4 unique stages leading into and through the course of Thursday's NBA deadline.
NBA Trade Deadline Stages as a Celtics Fan:
Stage 1 – Excitement
As Thursday began rumors started to boil. All it really takes for excitement to occur is a big name with your team linked to it. The week started with the Celtics being linked to potential Drummond or Griffin rumors, but as a hard core supporter we realize the true talk may not begin until late Wednesday/early thursday.
That began with Jimmy Butler and Paul George. How often are two top 15 players in their primes, under 28 both available AND linked in rumors to the same team? This had an eery feeling of 2007 off season. Knowing Ainge he may be looking at a go big or go home scenario and as an excited fan my thoughts were not on obtaining either, but both!
Stage 2 – Reluctance
Of course as big name rumors come about they are met with big time proposals. I knew and was prepared as a Celtics fan we would likely need to relinquish the coveted 2017 Brooklyn pick. I was okay with this since it will be a Point Guard draft and even landing the top pick puts Boston in an awkward scenario were the league may then devalue all of our PG assets (Thomas, Smart, pick, Rozier) and Boston may either be forced to make a move out of sensibility or try and ride it out with a log jam only to make a worse move later (we've seen this with other log jams before, such as the recent center situation in Philly, or the PG situation years ago in Phoenix).
I also knew it would cost our expiring deals (Johnson/Jerebko) and a shot at Gordon Hayward in the off season. Again, I was cool with this since it is a relatively weak free agency class and going all in on Hayward is likely going to be met with disappointment. The Jazz are a nice young team on the rise aiming for a potential home court seed in the playoffs. Furthermore Utah could offer Gordon a more lucrative contract than any other team, those factors should likely out weigh playing for your former coach. Just trying to be objective.
Finally I knew a trade would cost one of Bradley or Crowder. I love these wings, they can defend multiple positions and are on solid contracts. Having said that you are netting a major upgrade here.
As a Pacers or Bulls fan, I'm not taking anything less than the above offer for my franchise guy. It would take the 2017 BK pick, expiring deals and one of Crowder or Bradley to get it done.
But rumors start swirling and it looks like Indiana wants Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. The Bulls want Rozier. Wait wait pump the breaks. In all honesty take Rozier, fine. But we love Smart in Boston. He's one of the more versatile defenders in the L and has become the embodiment and sole of the Celtics. Jaylen Brown has also shown fantastic flashes and is only 19. His BBALL IQ at that stage is ridiculous and reminds many fans of a young Reggie Lewis. Those two would be more than tough to part to say the least.
Stage 3 – Disappointment
The deadline is about to end and Woj notifies the world that Boston is standing pat. WHAT??? You are telling me we had a shot at either Butler or George, maybe both and what potentially held it up is Jae freaking Crowder? Do you realize these wings are under 30, in their primes and fit the style you want to run in Boston? Not to quote Rick Pitino, but prime Kevin Garnett is not walking through that door!
Further dissapointment is met when I see Indy wanted Crowder, Brown and one of Smart or the 2017 Brooklyn pick. Wait wait…what. You are telling me the Celtics could've nabbed George WITHOUT MOVING A BROOKLYN PICK. Let's play that out. Forget a potential Butler deal for a second. The Celts could have made that move, turned around and dealt say Ziller's expiring and a minor asset (say future Memphis pick) for PJ Tucker and for the heck of it, moved Jerebko and another marginal asset (Future LAC pick) for Kyle O Quinn. They then roll with Thomas/Bradley/George/Horford/
While many fans will claim the importance of guys like Crowder, Brown and Smart they are all good rotational talents at best, let's get real. They are replaceable. I'd rather do a minor downgrade in my playoff rotation of having Rozier/Tucker get maybe the 20 extra minutes that would have gone to Smart and Brown vs. The massive 35 minute upgrade I'm getting with George over Crowder. He's that much better. He can help close games and seriously put this team into contention.
Stage 4 – Acceptance
Word after the deadline is that Paul George's value may drop significantly on draft day. Bird doesn't want to make the same mistake OKC did with Durant. If George doesn't sign an extension in Indiana, which now seems inevitable, you have to believe Boston would have the same strong pieces to offer, but can also low ball a bit given Indy's predicament. Sure, Magic and the Lakers may over pay and do a deal that reminds us all of when Carmelo came to New York, but Boston will still be in prime position.
Back to the Bulls. Let's play their likely scenario heading into draft night. They'll probably lose in the first round again. The team will assess Hoiberg. They'll need to do something about their 4 PG glut and of course will have to consider if now is the time to move Butler. I don't put much faith in the Bulls since their front office is notoriously slow in moving stars that don't fit. Still, if Boston lands a top 3 pick dealing Jimmy for it is a risk you have to take if you are the Bulls. They are falling apart and just acquired a slew of young mediocre pieces hoping one sticks. They may as well go all in and go for the best potential asset of them all, a top pick in 2017.
So, Boston enters draft night in good position. The hope is if they do land a top pick and want to keep him, they quickly move Smart and Rozier and that 2018 Brooklyn pick and still land one of George or Butler. They can also still have free agency cap and maybe Ainge is right about Hayward coming here. In all honesty, maybe Boston heads into next season with a top pick, one of George or Butler and Hayward. To be honest, isn't that the only conceivable way they even net a true contending roster? Golden State and even the Cavs are generational teams. Maybe Boston needs to take risks by not taking risks now and hope they land personell like that.
It should be a great off season as a Celts fan which of course begins with stage 5, Hope.